Beyond Technology | Education | Swimgrid | Professional Development | Student

With 1:1 or BYOD is Computer Curriculum Still Necessary?

As mobile student and teacher devices (iPads, smart phones, laptops, Chromebooks, Android and Surface tablets, etc.) become more commonplace in our schools, technology planning becomes more important than ever. The question I hear often is "When we move to a device friendly environment, ie. one-to-one, is student computer curriculum still necessary?" The answer is a definitive yes!
Let me start by listing the 5 major areas your technology plan should address and where the curriculum should fit in.

1. Teacher preparation | assessment, professional development, and on-going support
2. Student preparation | basic skills (computer curriculum!) that prepares them for integrated content areas
3. Classroom Curriculum | re-writing existing lessons that apply project based learning with relevant technology connections using Web 2.0 tools, mobile devices, and productivity software
4. Infrastructure | a bullet proof wireless network, appropriate security, coupled with IT support and policies
5. Project management | assessments, on-going planning and accountability

There are other areas that can be included but these are the key 5 areas that will lead to success. Many smart administrators have learned the hard way that a "one day in-service" is not your answer and a "one size fits all' approach will not work.

While your teachers begin the professional development phase of the technology plan (teacher specific training including hands-on, instructor led support and modeling with on-line support); students should also have access to a project based computer curriculum that is both age and grade appropriate. The best fit for this type of technology curriculum is in a K-6 or K-8 environment. Ask yourself the following questions to see if your computer curriculum is worth the weight of the 3-ring binder:

• Is it project based?
• Is it based on a scope and sequence referencing national standards?
• Is it based on games or productivity tools?
• Does it have integration links to your classroom lessons?
• Is it designed to be delivered by a computer teacher or a classroom teacher?
• What skill level is it written to?
• Does it come with training and support?
• Are there templates?
• What software or on-line resources does it require?
• Is it available in digital formats?
• Does it support both computer and tablet environments?

If technology basics are introduced to students correctly in a K-6 or K-8 environment, students should no longer have to "learn" computer skills in high school. All the basics should be handled before high school. With that said, we encourage higher level tech skills be taught via computer curriculum in high school. Areas we encourage development in are; network administration, desktop support classes, graphic design, publishing, programing, app development, video and multimedia production. For students that may not have a higher education plan, these skills can be invaluable for future earning potential.

Computer curriculum takes a major role in elementary school. Starting in Kindergarten students should be learning basic level skills at the lower levels of a scope and sequence for the 9 major technology areas:

1. word processing
2. spread sheets
3. data bases
4. multimedia
5. graphics
6. desktop publishing
7. applied technology
8. Internet
9. operating systems

Many Principals have given me a perplexed look when I share with them that we encourage Kindergarten students to learn basic spread sheet skills. Of course, we start with simple concepts like rows and columns using hop scotch or database skills such as, sorting by attribute. Believe me, primary level students sort things all the time by colors and type. Venn diagrams are another great tool to teach these basic skills. Intermediate and upper elementary students can get into higher levels of each of the 9 areas with the right computer curriculum, and often times the higher levels of the scope and sequencing will go into middle school as well.

Another interesting computer curriculum approach we have taken with both high school and junior high school students is what we call our "entrepreneurial training series". CEO Challenge and CEO Marketing give students the ability to dream about what it would be like to start-up their own company. The 2 courses focus on the following key areas: Start-up and Marketing of a business. Students choose a business idea they are passionate about and began researching  their business concept. Seeing a room full of high school or junior high school aged students focused, on-task, and preparing for their future in a highly constructive technological environment is a sight to see! Even more impressive than their focus and drive are their business plans.

So, who is going to teach this computer curriculum? That is a great question, and it depends on the technology level of your teaching staff. The answer 90% of the time is that you need a specialist such a computer teacher or technology coordinator. I emphasize teach in this context because this project based environment requires someone with classroom management skills and an understanding of instructional design and learning theory. A techie type person, generally speaking, does not have the skill set to motivate and manage a class of K-2 students. The instructor must have the ability to keep the attention of children who have 101 keys in front of them or a touch based tablet. That requires patience and a high level of classroom management ability.

Providing basic skills to your students using a scope, sequence, and project based computer curriculum will give them the skills they need to be prepared for an integrated lesson that should be based on your existing classroom curriculum. In a future blog post, I will explain why integrated lessons should be the center of your technology plan, and if done correctly will bring the teaching and learning processes with technology together.